Urchins, While Swimming


Cathrynne M. Valente’s short story, “Urchins, While Swimming” is available at the above link. She’s the author of the Orphan’s Tale series, and some other great short stories. Below is the first few paragraphs of her exploration of mother-love and the legend of the rusalka, a kind of Russian water-spirit. :)

On the third day the ardent hermit
Was sitting by the shore, in love,
Awaiting the enticing mermaid,
As shade was lying on the grove.
Dark ceded to the sun’s emergence;
By then the monk had disappeared,
No one knew where, and only urchins,
While swimming, saw a hoary beard.

–Aleksandr Pushkin
Rusalka, 1819

I: Snail Into Shell

Rybka, you have to wake up.

At night she always called me rybka. At night, when she shook me awake in my thin bed and the dirt-smeared window was a sieve for the light of the bone-picked stars, she whispered and stroked my temples and said: rybka, rybka, wake up, you have to wake up. I would rub my eyes and with heavy limbs hunch to the edge of the greyed mattress, hang my head over the side. She would be waiting with a big copper kettle, a porcelain basin, the best and most beautiful of the few things we owned. She would be waiting, and while I looked up at the stars through a scrim of window-mud and window-ice, she would wet my hair.

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/valente_12_06.html has the rest.

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